Back in the late 1970s and 1980s, rock superstars like Pink Floyd, AC/DC and The Cure would journey to a 900-acre property near the French Riviera, where they would create landmark records — not the least of which was Pink Floyd’s 1979 album The Wall (which was partly recorded there) — amid a bucolic paradise.
After two decades of neglect, that studio will soon rise again. And Brad Pitt is the reason for it.
Nestled inside Chateau Miraval, Pitt’s winemaking estate, Studio Miraval consists of three houses, where artists lived as well as recorded, taking breaks to recharge in a swimming pool. A live-in chef would prepare all their meals. The studio itself measured about 3,000 square feet, with a 650-square-foot control room.
In 2012, Pitt and then-partner Angelina Jolie bought the entire estate for $60 million, having leased it the four years prior. In 2014, they married in Miraval’s 13th century chapel — originally a barn for the Templars — putting guests up in its 30-room manor house, built in 1841.
The recording facility dates back to 1977, when then-owner Jacques Loussier, a French jazz pianist, decided to build his dream studio. It was used up until 20 years ago, when its analog equipment fell behind the times, its buildings into disrepair.
But Pitt — who divorced Jolie in 2016 and is the estate’s owner, splitting the wine business down the middle with the Perrin family — is now overseeing a spectacular renovation of Studio Miraval, which will open for business in the summer of 2022.
To help him execute the project, Pitt sought out Damien Quintard, a 30-year-old Paris-based music engineer who has worked with Brian Eno and Gaspard Augé of the French techno duo Justice and contributed to the development of the Dolby Atmos system.
Pitt learned of Quintard through his work in fine-arts circles, including a collaborative installation — titled Echo, it combined motorized sculptures, light, video animation and hyperspatial speakers — for New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s reopening after a renovation in 2019.
In 2020, Pitt proposed a meeting. “We clicked,” Quintard tells The Hollywood Reporter via a Zoom conversation from his Paris offices. “He came to my studio in Paris. It was a fantastic meeting. We talked for hours and hours. He talked to me about his plans for Miraval. I was obviously super excited, because as a Frenchman and a music lover, one of the holy grails is Miraval. I went over there, did my design for the space. We clicked on that side, and we moved forward.”
Quintard — who got his start working as a tonmeister, or recording engineer, for symphony orchestras — saw eye to eye with Pitt when it came to the clean minimalism of their visions.
“The thing I noticed is, he has an acute sense for emotions and simplicity,” he says of Pitt. “The most beautiful records are also done with absolute simplicity. My whole philosophy relates to that — the simple beauty of mono recordings from the 1950s and 1960s, using a single microphone.”
That philosophy extends to their architectural plans. In its previous state, says Quintard, “It was very ’70s — vintage and, in its own way, beautiful.” Still, the cramped quarters and low ceilings bore little relationship to the outside, where the Southern France sunlight poured into every nook and cranny.
“With Brad, we redesigned everything to be so simple, so pure. Light is everywhere,” Quintard continues. “The future is light.”
When the facility opens in 2022, Studio Miraval will be available to all major recording labels: Imagine Billie Eilish doing laps and sipping on Studio by Miraval rosé (which French newspaper Le Figaro dubbed “the superstar of rosé”) before heading back into the studio to lay down a few tracks, waving hello to Pitt on her way inside.
But Quintard says the new Studio Miraval will be much more than just a premium recording facility. “We want to do different types of productions over there — film, theater, fine arts,” he says. “It’s a new Florence over there.”